The large transport infrastructure deficit in Africa is holding the continent back with road access rate of only 34%, compared to 50% in other parts of the developing world.
Poor transport infrastructure in African countries is hindering the continent’s per capita growth by 2% each year, analysts say.
In a recent report compiled by the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) the institution said coverage in terms of road density and provision of other transport infrastructure is generally low in Africa in comparison to other developing regions.
IDEP states that this poor transport infrastructure has hindered economic growth and increased transaction costs associated with the movement of goods across African borders.
Infrastructure services are central to economic activities and to facilitate human development, economic growth, and productivity in industry. As African countries aspire to reach higher levels of development, the need to meet the increasing demand for transport infrastructure has become critical.
“Poor infrastructure slows Africa’s per capita growth by 2% annually. Currently the cost of transporting goods in in Sub-Saharan Africa is the highest in the world,” stated IDEP.
“Though wages are very low, the lack of reliable provision of roads in all regions of SSA, seaports and other transport infrastructure makes it is extremely difficult for African industries to compete in the global market,” they said.
The high cost of transportation of goods in Sub Saharan Africa combined with the inadequate road networks to remote areas and certain towns is constraining the growth of small towns as well as the economic viability of businesses operating in remote areas. This is also noted by the African Development Bank (AfDB)/Programme for infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) who stated in their report that the Africa’s large infrastructure deficit is holding it back with road access rate of only 34%, compared with 50% in other parts of the developing world, while transport costs are 100% higher.
In addition to this, the poor transport infrastructure presents a challenge for Africa as it affects the pace of regional integration and the competitiveness of African goods and services in the global and regional trade markets. This thereby means that African businesses and startups located in small towns and remote areas face constraints in expanding their trade routes due to dilapidated or poor road networks.
It is thus paramount that African governments, particularly those in Sub Saharan Africa, and the private sector invest in upgrading road networks and other transport infrastructure in Africa. Investment in bridges, tunnels, seaports, airports and railway networks leads to an increase in the trade markets of African businesses and in the long run contributes to Africa’s per capita growth. The development of transport infrastructure is also likely to reduce the cost of transporting goods in Sub Saharan Africa.
Key linkages established by efficient transport infrastructure between urban areas and remote regions of Africa such as rural areas and some small towns could boost the growth of these remote businesses and enable a more holistic development pattern for African countries that is inclusive of all areas. Furthermore, the development of African seaports to sustain more traffic and container space is likely to increase the rate of international trade and Africa’s global competitiveness.
Significant investment is therefore required to address major transport infrastructure deficit in the African continent. Also important in this investment is the role of the establishment of more effective transport infrastructure policies and the flexibility of African governments to private investment in transport infrastructure. With increased investment in transport infrastructure and efficient transport infrastructure policies, African per capita growth could increase as the continent expands its global and regional trade linkages.
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